Sam Nunberg, the long-ago dismissed Trump aide who stormed back into the spotlight Monday with a whirlwind media tour defying Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury investigation and denouncing the president, testified Friday after claiming he would not.
Nunberg entered Washington, DC’s, E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse Friday morning to comply with a subpoena issued by a grand jury empaneled under Mueller’s authority.
Grand jury proceedings are secretive affairs, typically conducted without a lawyer on hand during questioning. Nunberg and his lawyer, New York white collar defense attorney Patrick Brackley, were in the building for roughly six hours, although it is not clear how long his testimony took. The exact subject matter is similarly impossible to know, although the subpoena, which Nunberg leaked to the Washington Post, asked for his communications with figures like ex-Breitbart News Executive Chairman and Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon, one-time campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone, and Carter Page, among others.
Federal grand juries are powerful investigative tools that operate largely under the control of prosecutors. They can use the power of courts to compel the disclosure of documents and the confidential testimony of potential witnesses in order to decide to bring charges – something that, in the federal system, only they may do. Failure to abide by their subpoenas can quickly lead to imprisonment for contempt of court.
Nunberg, who is himself a lawyer, undoubtedly knew this, but that did not stop him from setting off a media feeding frenzy Monday when he gave interview after interview with print and television journalists. He repeatedly claimed he was not going to comply with the subpoena Mueller’s grand jury sent him over the weekend and would not supply the emails they requested or testify as ordered. He also repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump and implied, without evidence, that collusion with Russians may actually have occurred after he left the Trump campaign.
Several sources speculated that Nunberg – who was fired from the Trump campaign over racial slurs he used online years earlier, before the first 2016 primaries – was suffering a breakdown or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Late Monday night he began to recant his bold refusal to cooperate, and on Tuesday Fox Business’s Charlie Gasparino said that Nunberg told him he would seek treatment for a drinking problem and other unspecified ailments after he testified.
Later, Nunberg told Yahoo! News that it was inappropriate for Gasparino to have disclosed that and that “I am not going into treatment. I am not going away to some facility.” He also implied his repeated claims that he would refuse to comply with his subpoena were “sarcastic” and “performance art.”
Before he testified, Nunberg made an about-face from his brash openness with reporters, taking a subtle dig at fellow victim of frankness with the media, short-lived White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci:
“I’m not commenting on anything anymore. I don’t want to turn into Anthony Scaramucci." — epic Sam Nunberg quote to Gloria Borger
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) March 9, 2018
Nunberg kept to his word, refusing to answer reporters’ shouted questions as he and his attorney left the courthouse. Grand jury proceedings are held to strict standards of secrecy, and his silence on what took place inside was in keeping with protocol.